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27 Jan 2019 : Runcorn Linnets are On The Ball for football's fight against period poverty

Runcorn Linnets have signed up in support of a football-led campaign to tackle the problem of period poverty among girls and young women.

Free sanitary products are to be made available to female players and supporters of the club as part of the successful On the Ball initiative.

The groundbreaking scheme launched last summer by three fans at Celtic Football Club has spread rapidly.

Now close to 60 football clubs of all levels of the game have become involved.

Under the scheme, the Runcorn club will provide sanitary products without charge in the Ladies toilets at The Millbank Linnets Stadium.

But not only are the Linnets aiming to further highlight financial issues surrounding sanitary products - research has shown that one in 10 girls can't afford them - they also want to combat the associated stigma and embarrassment, which can deter participation and enjoyment of sport.

The success of Runcorn Linnets Ladies - among the top teams in the Cheshire Women's League - along with the progress and promise of the club's junior and youth agegroup girls' teams, proves that female footballers have no need to be deterred or discouraged from playing. There is also no reason for them to feel ashamed.

An online sample survey of 1,000 14-21 year olds, conducted in 2017 by Opinium Research, prompted the girls rights charity Plan International UK to release statistics showing the extent of period poverty among young women in the United Kingdom.

The research showed:

10% of those surveyed couldn't afford sanitary wear; one in seven girls (15%) struggled to pay for them.

14% were forced to borrow sanitary wear from a friend.

12% had to improvise sanitary wear for the same financial reasons.

19% of girls changed to a less suitable sanitary product due to cost.

The research also showed up the full extent of the taboo and stigma surrounding periods and menstruation.

Nearly half (48%) of UK girls aged 14-21felt embarrassed by their periods.

One in seven (14%) did not know what was happening when they started their period.

Almost three quarters (71%) of those questioned felt embarrassed buying sanitary products.

49% had lost a day's schooling because of their period.

64% of girls missed a PE lesson or sport because of their period, 52% of these concocting a lie or false excuse.

Lucy Russell, UK Campaign manager at Plan International UK, said:

"Period poverty is a very real challenge facing many girls in the UK, and it's devastating to hear of the impact it is having on girls' lives, their ability to be themselves, and their self-esteem.

"We need a society-wide approach to bust the taboo, and an education programme which addresses the shocking reality that too many girls lack the knowledge and understanding of how to manage their period, and are too afraid to ask for advice."

Mike Bignall, chairman of Runcorn Linnets, said:

"The statistics are truly shocking and as a club, which is fully committed to promoting the value of sport and healthy lifestyle among young women and girls, we are committed to doing what we can to break down the financial barriers and also the stigma surrounding periods and menstruation.

"If providing free sanitary products for our young players and supporters helps with this even in a small way then as a community club, we will feel that our involvement in the On The Ball campaign will have been worthwhile."

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